Former Utne Editor in Chief David Schimke on conflict, compassion, partisanship, and peace
Paul Chappell still lives by the examples his Korean American mother set when he was growing up in Alabama: “Don’t talk too much; be stoic; be calm; be respectful; be on time; don’t gossip; keep your word; fulfill your promises; dress conservatively.” The 31 year-old West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran is neither soft-spoken nor passive when it comes to his decidedly progressive convictions, however.
A peace activist and author of two books, including The End of War: How Waging Peace Can Save Humanity, Our Planet and Our Future, Chappell now lives by the words of civil rights leader James Lawson, who said that the “difficulty with nonviolent people and efforts is that they don’t recognize the necessity of fierce discipline and training, strategizing, planning, and recruiting.” And, having seen combat up close and personal, he believes that that a world without war is not only possible, but that “what’s naïve is to think that wars can continue and humanity will survive.”
In a wide-ranging interview posted online earlier this year by KoreAm—a monthly magazine that covers and analyzes the news, culture, and “people of Korean America”—Chappell engages on a wide-variety of subjects: The racial challenges of his childhood (his father is white-and-African American); the seeds of terrorism, which grow in the soil of hopelessness; and the strategic importance of seeing things through the eyes of both your opponents and those you hope to persuade.
In a particularly thought-provoking segment of the conversation, Chappell compares war to slavery, both flawed institutions based on inaccurate assumptions and opportunistic lies.
“Today, many of us believe that human beings are naturally violent, so war is inevitable,” he tells interviewer Leslee Goodman. “Look at who benefits from that myth. If human beings are naturally violent, politicians can’t be held responsible for making war; they’re just trying to protect us from the violent people all over the planet. Weapons makers can’t be held responsible; they’re just trying to help us defend ourselves. But in truth humans aren’t naturally violent, so we’re all responsible. War is a choice. General Omar Bradley, a veteran of World War II, said, ‘Wars can be prevented just as surely as they are provoked, and we who fail to prevent them share in guilt for the dead.’”